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Sharkproof Swimwear

This post is in memory of my favorite pair of black underwear, tragically lost at sea August 16, 2012

I am almost certain no one has ever been eaten by a shark while wearing an evening gown.

Maybe on the Titanic, but they probably drowned or froze first, so hey, my totally made-up not-even-remotely-scientifically-supported point still stands.

Uh, Plummy? What point would that be?

There’s nothing saying you have to wear a swimsuit to the beach.

Up with this sort of thing!

I mean sure you probably have to wear some sort of covering, because most beaches are Not That Kind of Beach, but if you don’t feel comfortable in a bathing suit, wear something else.

Honestly, it’s not a big deal.

Of course most of you are much smarter than I am –not that that sets the bar prohibitively high– so you probably figured this out already, but if you have body shame or a weird rash or are cursed with a long torso that forces you to choose between exposing your nooks or your crannies to the public eye, you can just choose your own adventure and be a beach bunny on your own terms.

Here is a brief sampling of outfits I’ve deemed fit for the briny blue at one time or another:

  • a traditional bathing suit
  • a gold-embroidered lavender silk sari
  • underwear and holiday colored Saran Wrap
  • an evening gown
  • various dresses of various lengths

True, some were bigger successes than others. Swimming in the sari, while not especially practical, was about the most glamorous thing I’ve ever done. I felt just exactly like that goldfish from Fantasia, and who doesn’t want to feel like that goldfish from Fantasia at least once before they shuffle loose this mortal coil?

Others just seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’m looking at –and slightly through– you, Saran Wrap bathing bodice, although in my defense it was nowhere near the most questionable outfit at that particular pre-discobrunch after-afterparty. Come to think of it, it didn’t even seem like a good idea then, but when you’re a straight-laced twenty year-old and a flock of gay men hopped up on ketamine and body glitter come at you with festive green plastic wrap and a meaningful glint in their eyes, you just do what you need to do. God I miss the 90’s.

–insert record scratch jerking us mercilessly back into cruel, cruel reality–

Recently, I’ve taken to wearing cotton dresses for my sunset dips.

Actually, I’ve taken to “reading Melville” which is the phrase I’ve come up with to describe swimming in the buff, since “skinny dipping” isn’t exactly accurate and “chunky dunking” lacks a certain charm. That being said, I live on an essentially deserted six-mile stretch of beach and what’s the damn point of living on an essentially deserted six-mile stretch of beach if you can’t strip off and traumatize some pelicans?

Even if you can’t blind your own seabirds, why not try donning something non-traditional for your next aquatic adventure? It’s better than sitting at home because you’re afraid of being The Fat Girl at the Beach. Just be careful if you’re in a swimming pool: chlorine is hell on a silk sari.

You Asked For It: Miss Plumcake at Villa Plumcake

No that's not nipple action, I'm pretty sure I had my keys tucked into my bra. Klassy.Golly! When I updated the Manolo for the Big Girl facebook page (which I SWEAR I’m going to start using again. Scout’s honor) I had no idea I’d get so many messages about my outfit.

Okay, it was more like four, but that’s four more than I expected and because I love to love you babies, I thought I’d do a little featurette for those wanting to reproduce the Miss Plumcake at Villa Plumcake look at home.

I’m not shy by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t often do this sort of thing. It comes across as a little self-indulgent, even for me.

Also, just in case you were wondering, that’s not weird nipple action, I’m just pretty sure I had my keys in my bra. That’s right mijas,  it’s all glamor at Villa Plumcake.

Here’s how to get the look:

HAT This is the exact hat in the photo, a crushable, abuseable, practically indestructible white fabric and wire sunhat.

I removed the ribbon and adjusted the brim into more of a portrait shape for maximum Joan Collins effect and wore it almost every day.


>SUNGLASSES Admittedly this is a bit of Advanced Fashion as the non-ironic white sunglasses can be difficult to pull off, but I love my mother of pearl Clubmasters (I also have them in a caramel jasper treatment) and really, when one is wearing All White All The Time, darker shades just won’t do. The variations and pearlescence of the frame stop them from looking hipster and land them safely into 1930’s glamor.


JOURNAL My grandmother kept a record of her Grand Tour of Europe, jotted down in a neat little notebook of Moroccan red leather with the most over-the-top rococo gilt swirls embossed along the cover.

Determined to maintain the travelogue tradition, I picked up a small but sturdy handmade leather journal on my first trip across the pond and have used it exclusively for my travel memoirs ever since.

Though the actual journal in the photo is a simple one-off I bought for ₤20 at King’s Cross Station in London, this travel-ready notebook has the same feel.

PEPPER PEN I never went anywhere alone without my pepper spray pen within easy reach, usually tucked into the neckline of my dress.

No one ever questioned why I always wrote with another pen.

It was a handy way to feel safe when I was walking around alone without openly insulting the locals.

BOLERO – I can’t remember where I picked up this Jessica Howard bolero cardigan, but I wish I’d bought a dozen of them.

The Pacific breeze can get a bit nippy and this, alternated with my wrap. kept me nice and snug.

The dress is an inexpensive Mexican-style white cotton sundress with a surplice neck and crocheted lace detailing on the skirt I picked up for almost nothing at Ross and the bra is the original (now discontinued) Lace Plunge from Lane Bryant.

So there you have it: Miss Plumcake at Villa Plumcake.

Add your own oceanfront lovenest, hot Latin footballer, mezcal (no worm, thank you) and shake. Olé!

Five Great: Statement Swimsuits

So sometimes you want the Tankini of Boringly Efficient Doom and sometimes you want something a little less…practical. If your glamor knob goes up to 11 and you want to spend some time in the Not-So-Shrinking Violet Lounge,  why not check these out?

Catalina in Teal and Deep Lilac from Monif C.

The Catalina is probably a surprisingly flattering suit on a lot of women, especially the super pear-shaped and the small-chested apple, since the drape brings all the visual attention and weight to the chest which balances out wide hips and camouflages a non-existant waist. This might also  be a good choice for the gal who needs to wear a bra underneath her suit since –provided she can find a halter bra she likes– the fabric’s folds hide a multitude of bra-line sins.

Leopard print swimsuit

Out of the ordinary without being In Your Face Fashiony, the cut of this swimdress is still quite modest, but the animal print gives it edge. The trick is to commit. Wear a jangly gold necklace with it, or some fantastic wooden bracelets. Just something to give it a wild flavor.

Convertible swimsuit/minidress
in white and aqua

I think I mentioned this white one when I was having a moment over white bathing suits last week, but the more I look the more I like this convertible swim dress. I’m not sure if you’ve ever gone swimming in a cockail dress, but there is something that can be extremely sexy about it, maybe it’s because it’s just slightly forbidden, who knows, but this swim dress with adjustable side ruching can give you either that cute retro look or that longer mini-dress dress thing. It’s also a godsend for the long-torsoed girl who just can’t find a suit in her size that covers both her nooks AND crannies.

Torrid harlequin swim top

Okay, to me this is just about 10 pounds of ugly in a five pound bag, but I got e-abused for not catering to the younger crowd. Well, here. An off-the-shoulder Harlequin-goes-to-Havana swim top in various alarming shades of pink. I hope Miuccia Prada is happy, because she’s the one who brought the harlequin-chic for Miu Miu all those years ago. Enjoy it, kiddos.

Monaco in yellow and fuchsia

From the ridiculous to the sublime –or at least marginally better than that last thing– I really like this suit, and if I had ANY belief it would be long enough for me I’d buy it in every color.

Well, that’s enough swimsuit posts from me for a while. Did you find any that tickled your fancy or does the search continue? Let a girl know!

Five Great: Not So Basic Black Swimsuits

Monif C Barbados Plunge Suit

A few years ago Monif C introduced what I’d call the beta version of this swimsuit. It interested me so I picked one up and alas, it was Not Good On Me. However, it looks like the problems in the earlier version –too low neck, shirring in the wrong place– have been addressed and the “Barbados” looks like it could be a fun option for playing Bond Girl on the beach.

I know you’ll all throw rocks at me for this, but deep in the black, gin soaked recesses of my soul, I sort of love, love and YEARN for a leather bathing suit. I know, I know. It’s the same part of my brain that wants a wall treatment made entirely of living moss.

I rarely wear swimwear and I don’t think I’ve worn so much as a napa leather jacket in a decade, but sometimes when I’m all alone and the wind is whistling its lonesome song, that I sit back and pine for the leather bathing suit I’ll never (probably for the best) own.


Kiyonna Ava convertible swimsuit




I mean, I think we all know I’ve got an enormous soft spot for 50’s fashion, so odds are if you style a model like that I’ll love whatever she has on her body (and can I just give a shout out to the model? She must be the palest swimsuit model in the world. Holla at your easily sunburnt girl!)

Convertible halters have been all the rage in swimwear recently and this is a fantastic, classic iteration. Click through to see other variations, the front-cross halter is one of my favorites. Remember, lots of sunscreen and you’ll never have to worry about an unruly tan line.

Monif C Monaco in Black

I featured the fuchsia and yellow versions of this the other day, but the black one is worth mentioning too.

This is pretty much a pear-shaped girls dream.

It would definitely go in my personal collection if only I weren’t so long waisted. Monif C swimwear in my experience runs short, so a word to the tall torso-ed wise.

I’d also advise you to go a size up if you’ve never worn her swimwear, especially with a cutout detail, you don’t want your little pooch of flesh to get all pokey-outy (pokey-outy being a medical term) and look weird.

I think this would actually work BEST on long waisted girls, so if any of you try it and have success, let a sister know.

Jessica London one piece with chain strap

So what if you want interesting without In Your Face Sexy?

It’s a reasonable request.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a basic black maillot and adding a bit of unexpected interest, which is exactly what you get with this chain strap one piece from Jessica London.

A fun take on the hardware and single shoulder trends of the past few seasons, this swimsuit is interesting without veering off into Crazypants or overly sexy.

It’s also available in white, and I very nearly bought it for myself.

Monif C Belize suit with mesh inserts

And one more from Monif C., this time featuring lingerie-inspired mesh inserts.

I haven’t quite made up my mind on this one.

On one hand, I’m intrigued by the lingerie motif, I remember the Dior Haute Couture collection a few years back when everyone was still broke and he did almost nothing but separates, working in vintage-inspired lingerie pieces to give the illusion of a woman still getting dressed in the atelier. I loved that show. Sigh, Galliano.

The suit is lovely on Fluvia –that’s right, I’m capable of saying a nice thing about her, even though even though I really don’t like her as a model since she always looks like she’ll stain my white furniture– so darker toned girls have at it.

I’d suggest my fellow residents of Honky O’Sunburn’s School for the Perennially Alabaster might give this one a miss as the mesh might read too obvious and skew trashy rather than retro-cheeky.

What do you think?


Five Great: Non-Black Swimsuits

You can have any color you want as long as it’s black. I knew that was the battle cry of good ol’ Hank Ford, but I was unaware it has translated itself to plus size swimwear as well.

On most people, black can a little harsh for the beach. Which isn’t to say I don’t have a soft spot for it –next week have a post dedicated entirely to black swimsuits– but those of us who yearn to wear something other than black, red or some teeth-grindingly awful hibiscus print, let me hit you with a few sweet suits I’ve come across recently.

Solid Sweetheart Neckline Swimdress in rose and white
See? Sweet. This could actually skew a little retro –it would on me, anything I put on my body automatically turns to 1925 except for the things that go 1955– but it’s not at all costumey. I like that it’s both bright and soft enough to do service for my fellow pale girls, but not so pale or vibrant that it washes us out. Plus how gorgeous would this look on darker skin tones? So gorgeous I just might spit.

Retro Convertible Halter in Blue
Now HERE is retro. It’s also my anointed swimsuit for this summer. Although I never wear halter tops otherwise, I find the visual interest up top balances out my hips for a more evenly distributed hourglass. Another thing I dig about this suit is the straps are adjustable, so you can convert it from a halter (plus however else you want to tie it) to a bandeau.

I think big girls tend to overlook the strapless swimsuit. I’m not saying it’s the most practical thing in the world if you’re chasing after rugrats and whatnot, but for apples and broad-shouldered pears it can be extremely flattering. Plus no tan lines on your shoulders and perhaps MOST importantly, it allows you to wear big ridiculous necklaces, and if there is anything more entertaining than wearing big jewelry on the beach, I can’t print it here.

Fuchsia Berry Shirred Miracle Suit
I love this suit because it looks so fashiony and yet it’s a really easy look to pull off successfully. Almost anyone could wear this and look like a million bucks. Pale girls? Yep, just remember to wear some color on your lips. Dark girls? Heaven. I’d only advise against it if you’re extremely narrow shouldered since that deep plunge will make them look even more narrow. Other than that, have at it and try not to act surprised when people drool.

Teal Jewel Halter Swimdress
Oh man, how effortless is this? It’s easy fitting but the jeweled halter makes it special and unexpected, plus it draws the attention up to the neckline and face and not the hips and belly. I don’t subscribe to the theory that everyone must spend all their beach time covering their “flaws” but it’s nice to get a little attention focused to where you want it, WITHOUT showing off a ton of rack.

Boho Print Swimdress
I almost wanted to call this a Liberty print because my grandmother had a Liberty scarf from the early 70’s that is very similar, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the story other than it’s surprising she got a Liberty of London scarf in Thailand and kept it because, despite her many many fine qualities, all that woman’s taste was in her mouth. Anyway, It’s a refreshing break from All Enormous Florals All The Time and great for anyone who wants to nod to her inner hippie chick without busting out the love beads and roach clips.

We’re Having a Moment

…over white bathing suits.

I finally broke down and bought this white convertible swimdress from Roaman’s. The adjustable ruching at the sides lets you shorten it for a retro swim look like Norma Jean and the gang, or you can let it down for more coverage, whatever your heart and your legs desire. Remember to use code OSPCOUPON16 to take 40% off your highest priced item!

Summer Legs Part 2: Makeup (or not) for shiny, happy legs

The first time I visited New York I spent a fascinated hour watching a Rockette carefully apply pancake makeup to her bruised legs before encasing them in two pairs of hi-test ultra-shiny dance hose and donning the rest of her costume. Fortunately, body makeup has come a long way and even though we mere mortals don’t have to have Rockette-approved legs, we can help nature along courtesy of various potions and tricks to even skin tone and make legs look longer and healthier. Here are a few to consider:

MAC Face and Body:

I love MAC Face and Body and wouldn’t be caught dead without my big bottle of White, which I use as a foundation in winter. Basically this is an extremely light, buildable, water-resistant foundation makeup artists use all over the face and body, thus the clever name. You get coverage by building up layers, so it’s much sheerer and more natural looking than face foundation applied to the legs. I’d use this if you’re gunshy about applying makeup to your body but want to even out the tone a little. Just goop some in your hands and rub into your legs, like lotion. Let it set a few minutes and go over it with a tissue to buff it a little. Then if you want more coverage, do it again.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs:

This is great stuff IF you can master the application. Theoretically you can just spray it onto your legs and buff it in. Uh huh, yeah. Good luck with that. It goes on like theatrical makeup so if that’s the look you want, great. If not, you’d be better served in putting a dime-sized blob of lotion in your hands and spraying the product onto the lotion, then rubbing it all over your legs. The lotion thins out the makeup and gives it more slip, plus time to buff it in. The downside is you have to wait for it to absorb, or else you’ll leave marks everywhere, so don’t do it if you’re in a rush. I’ve had luck covering up bruises and such by applying the spray to a cosmetic sponge and then buffing it in. When you’re done, scrub your hands with dish soap. Do NOT touch your eyes if you wear contacts. If a bit of the product gets on your lens, you might as well throw them away.

The Old Stripper Trick:

I don’t know why it’s called “The Old Stripper Trick” since it’s basically just highlighting your legs the way you’d highlight your face. Once your legs are tanned and moisturized and you’ve done whatever else you plan on doing to them for the evening and they’re nice and dry, take a bit of highlighting powder –NOT BRONZER– and starting just below your knee brush it straight down your shin bone. Easy does it on this one: you want a highlight, not a racing stripe.

I don’t use highlighting powder for my face –I don’t like shimmer– and I didn’t want to buy a fancy one just for this so I popped into drug store closest to Stately Chateau Gateau and picked up N.Y.C. Sparkle Eye Dust in Champagne and it worked like a charm. It’s a loose powder and comes with its own (admittedly pretty junky) applicator brush. I applied it with the (still junky) brush and then blended it out slightly with my fingers. I didn’t want to use one of my brushes because even though this is a shimmer and NOT a glitter, sparkly things have half-lives of plutonium and I had no desire to get any on my brushes and subsequently, my face.

Sweet Almond Oil:

Slightly glossy legs look fantastic but can be a pain in the neck to achieve for daily wear. There are all sorts of short-term tricks: petroleum jelly, baby oil, glycerin and water, even cooking spray, plus a hundred and one different shimmer lotions, but my favorite is just good old-fashioned Sweet Almond Oil. I discovered this completely by accident one morning. See, the night before, SoccerBoy had invited me over to watch Casablanca. People talk about seeing Casablanca on the big screen as if it’s the way it must be seen. False. The way to watch Casablanca is while getting a sweet almond oil massage from an eager to please soccer player FROM Casablanca who ranks your pasty and corpulent body just above Ryan Giggs’ left foot and just below Zinedine Zidane’s nutmeg skills on his personal list of Greatest Things Ever.

In the morning I still had no idea whether Ingrid Bergman got on that plane, but I did notice sweet almond oil, liberally and enthusiastically applied (seriously, rub it in) makes my legs look glossy and healthy without looking greasy. Here’s lookin’ at you, SoccerBoy (though that doesn’t mean you’re still invited to walk into my gin joint, if you know what I mean.)

A Note:

Without oversharing any more than I already have, if you’ve got a Special Friend who is especially enthusiastic about your legs, you might want to give a bit of thought to whether the products you use are visitor-friendly. Is it going to smudge, feel weird or taste weird? Skip it. Opt instead for pure cocoa butter or my beloved almond oil and invite them to stay a while.

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